Vic Peters arrives at this Last Chance Cafe knowing full well what is at stake.
The legendary skip from the Fort Garry Curling Club would have preferred to already have a Safeway Championship berth already nailed down, but that's not the case so he comes to the 122nd edition of the MCA bonspiel with his eyes wide open.
There are five berths available through the MCA and Peters is hoping to nail down one of them.
"It's a long-shot for sure, you definitely never want it to leave it to the last-chance thing," said Peters, who is supported by lead Marc Lacroix, second Travis Taylor and son Daley, who is throwing fourth stones. "But somebody has to get those spots, so you give 'er as hard as you can and possibly get more breaks than the other guys and get to the end."
Peters believes that getting off to a good start is pivotal.
"The key is to last the first couple of days and then you possibly have a shot and have your legs under you," said Peters, whose rink opens up against Steve Pauls of Manitou. "When you're trying to just find a spot, you want to stay on both main sides as long as you can. If you lose one main early, then you're really behind the 8-ball because you'll have six or seven sudden-death games you have to win. It can happen pretty fast in the main (draw) because there are a lot of good players. You can't look ahead. The toughest part of the spiel is not necessarily who you face, it's all the different conditions you deal with.
"And being eight ends (instead of 10), it's still a good game but you can get two or three down early and you're basically stymied. You have to play good, but you also have to be fortunate."
One thing Peters always has working for him is experience.
He's not immune to the pressure, but he feels a little better about things knowing he's won the MCA bonspiel twice (1987 and 1993) and has also secured berths in the provincial championship through the event as well.
"It helps knowing you've gotten through this thing, so it's not out of the question," said Peters, who was born in Steinbach and would find it extra special to compete for another provincial title in his hometown from Feb. 10 to 14 at T.G. Smith Arena.
Some of the other notable teams still trying to lock up berths in the Safeway Championship include Peter Nicholls of Deer Lodge, Brad Haight and Doug Riach of West Kildonan and David Hamblin of Morris.
As has become the norm over the past several years, the total number of entries for the MCA bonspiel are down but only slightly, with 406 teams participating, compared to 412 last year.
"We need to bring back some of the fun to the event," said Curl Manitoba executive director Shane Ray, noting that several participating clubs are bringing in bands for evening festivities. "The majority of the people going to this are going for fun and I think some of that has been lost over time."
Ray is hopeful the event can grow to 448 teams for 2011.
Opening ceremonies for the 122nd MCA bonspiel are slated for 5 p.m. today at the Heather Curling Club, while the ceremonial first stone will be thrown around 5:30 p.m.